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How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?

Did you forget to put your fried chicken in the fridge last night?

Nobody likes wasting food, so you may feel an urge to shrug it off and eat it anyway. But if you do this, you may be putting your health at risk.

So, how long can fried chicken sit out at room temperature before it’s no longer safe to eat? Here’s everything you need to know.

How Long Can Fried Chicken Sit Out at Room Temperature?

Fried chicken can safely sit out at room temperature for up to two hours. If you return it to the refrigerator or put it back in the oven before two hours have passed, it will still be safe to eat.

But after sitting at room temperature for longer than two hours, fried chicken can begin to grow harmful bacteria that could cause serious illness. This risk is only higher if the chicken has been sitting in a hot room.

Some of the bacteria that may grow on your chicken include e Coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus. These bacteria can in turn produce toxins, which can lead to hospitalization and even death in some rare cases.

chicken frying

While cooking can kill most bacteria, it won’t affect the toxins [1] – so even if you reheat the chicken after you’ve left it out, it could still make you sick.

No matter what kind of chicken you have–fried, grilled, or even raw–the answer to this question is the same. Any chicken or other perishable food that you’ve left out longer than two hours is no longer guaranteed safe to eat.

Can You Leave Chicken Out Overnight?

Unless your kitchen is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you should not leave out chicken overnight. Otherwise, you will put yourself at risk of foodborne illness, as it would have been sitting in the danger zone [2] – between 40 and 135 degrees–for much longer than two hours.

fried chicken

It may be disappointing to discover that you’ve left your fried chicken out overnight, but it is better to waste food than to potentially end up in the hospital.

Does Fried Chicken Need to be Refrigerated?

Yes, if you’d like to store your leftover fried chicken, your best option is to put it in the refrigerator. Doing this can help keep your chicken fresh and prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria.

Be sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing the flavors of nearby food.

food in fridge

How Long Does Fried Chicken Last in the Fridge?

When you store it properly, fried chicken can last up to four days in the fridge.

After that, your fried chicken may begin to spoil. Even if there are no signs of spoilage after four days, it likely won’t taste very good.

How to Reheat Leftover Fried Chicken

To make the best of your leftover fried chicken, you’ll want to reheat it properly. Otherwise, it’ll be soggy and won’t taste quite as good.

Fried chicken from the previous night must be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. We recommend using the air fryer or oven to do this, as they’re the best ways to bring back your fried chicken’s crispy texture.

How to Store Fried Chicken During Potlucks

When you think of potlucks, you probably picture lots of perishable dishes sitting out on a hot day. Unfortunately, potlucks and other gatherings involving food are a notorious source of food poisoning for this exact reason.

However, it’s still possible to keep your fried chicken safe to eat for longer than two hours without putting it in the fridge. If you’re serving fried chicken at a potluck or other gathering, consider storing it in a warming tray. You can purchase these online or at department stores like Target.

fried chicken 2

When you keep your fried chicken at a temperature of at least 135 degrees Fahrenheit, it will be out of the danger zone and at a lower risk of growing bacteria. In addition, it’ll keep it from getting cold, and nobody likes cold fried chicken.

Once the gathering is over, you’ll be able to safely store the leftover chicken in the refrigerator or freezer for later.

How to Tell If Fried Chicken Has Gone Bad

Not sure if your fried chicken has gone bad? Here are a few tips to help you determine whether it’s safe to eat.  

First, bear in mind that the bacteria and toxins that form at room temperature will not affect the appearance of your fried chicken in any way. Even if the fried chicken looks and smells fine, you should always throw it away if it’s been at room temperature for longer than two hours.

However, when it comes to chicken that you’ve stored in the refrigerator or freezer, there are a few telltale signs that it’s no longer edible.

fried whole chicken

The most obvious sign of spoilage is mold. If you notice any discolored or fuzzy spots on your chicken, throw it in the trash. Cutting off the moldy parts won’t do you any good [3], either.

If you notice anything else unusual about the appearance of your fried chicken, like a soggy texture or other discoloration, it could be another sign that it’s gone bad.

If there’s nothing wrong with your fried chicken’s appearance, try smelling it before you eat it. If it has an unpleasant scent, it’s likely not safe to eat.

When you’re dealing with frozen fried chicken, you should look for signs of freezer burn. While freezer burnt food is completely safe to eat, it will have a dry texture and an overall unpleasant taste.

Still not sure if your fried chicken is safe to eat? When in doubt, throw it out.

Conclusion

So, how long can fried chicken sit out? The short answer to that question is “up to two hours.” Any longer than that, and your fried chicken can harbor bacteria and toxins that can make you severely ill.

To ensure that your fried chicken doesn’t go to waste, be sure to promptly refrigerate it. Doing so can help prevent the risk of foodborne illness.

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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